January 06, 2005

Was Tolkien A Conservative?

Rob the Llamabutcher tries to figure out whether Tolkien is the property of liberals or conservatives. Certainly a lot of hippies and counterculture types usually thought of as "liberals" loved Tolkien's fantasies. Conservatives love the struggle (and triumph) of good over evil.

I posted a lengthy comment there, and reproduce it below the fold:

Timothy Sandefur has had an interesting string of posts about the philosophical differences between libertarians (i.e., classical liberals) and conservatives (Start here and scroll down for about a week).

One problem in using the terms "liberal" and "conservative" is that they have been burdened with political baggage inconsistent with their strict and classical meanings.

I think Tolkien was a classical conservative. He liked social order and was skeptical of industrialism and how it disrupts an idyllic pastoral life (Shire=England). Much of his epic works had to do with preserving the best of the past in the face of change and destruction. All conservative ideas.

The reason so many leftists (think the 1960s hippies) liked him is that they themselves are "conservatives."

Posted by JohnL at January 6, 2005 10:48 PM

And because they assumed "pipeweed" was marijuana. Stoner hobbits, dude!

Posted by: owlish at January 7, 2005 10:05 AM

A week? Oh, how sharper than a serpent's tooth!

Posted by: Timothy Sandefur at January 7, 2005 11:11 AM

Timothy, thank you for your series on conservatism versus libertarianism. (There, I'm not a thankless child!)

In any case I think the post that started the kefuffle was on January 1 (Dillard v. Bork).

Perhaps I should clarify that this is a recurrent theme, most recently revisited over the past week?

Posted by: JohnL at January 7, 2005 01:14 PM

I've been reading LOTR for, oh I'd say almost 40 years. Read 'em first time in 7th grade, in the 60's,and reread in high school and I had a pretty liberal take on them then. Of course we loved the pipeweed, dude. Read them to my first kid and started appreciating the celebration of traditional values - conservatism - then read things about Tolkien. Learned about him and Dorthy Sayers and C.S.Lewis, and their link to G.K Chesterton, and now I'm on my seventh reading to my fourth (and last) child and I now see them as a Christian allegory, which was intended by Tolkien, a devout catholic, raised by a priest after being orphaned. "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," he wrote to his friend, Father Robert Murray, "unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

Posted by: Anselm at January 7, 2005 10:46 PM

Isn't it a different experience to read the LOTR books aloud? I read them to my first kid during 2002-2003. Tolkien was really a master of the English language in a way not so apparent until you have read it aloud. Thanks for the input (and for your link).

Posted by: JohnL at January 7, 2005 10:50 PM

Good point about reading aloud. Not one of my kids ever asked me to skip even the longset and seemingly boring descriptive paragraphs.

Posted by: anselm at January 8, 2005 10:31 AM
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